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3 Big Challenges for Planning Multi-Modal Cities

It's just not as simple as "stop prioritizing cars."
relates to 3 Big Challenges for Planning Multi-Modal Cities
Benson Kua / Flickr

Cities of all sizes are reorienting their transportation priorities toward people over cars. Rebranding streets as "complete," "shared," or "great" reflects a turn away from automobility as the only choice for urban travel. Local transportation officials and planners now place a larger focus on offering many modes of travel and consider quality-of-life rather than simply encouraging driving everywhere. Though cars are still dominant, the era of automobility seems to have peaked. Yet continued reductions in driving require true multi-modalism: rather than relying on one mode of transportation, or expecting that most driving trips can be substituted for transit trips, people need to be able to choose from a network of options, including not traveling at all.

The promise of multi-modal streets hides the fact that such a dramatic shift away from the traditional American form of auto-oriented personal urban transportation is much more difficult than just accommodating drivers everywhere. Supporting many modes requires including multiple actors in the planning process, all with different priorities and preferences. More travel choices also means private entrepreneurs will take the lead on some services normally offered by the public sector: from taxi or bus services to parking management to goods movement. And with the benefits of redefining and reallocating street space in a multi-modal system come new political problems in terms of fighting for that space, too.